Our interaction with animals is not an ethical matter. Ethics are a social contract which animals cannot agree too. What animals DO abide by is nature, survival. That is something humans are capable of understanding, and Id go further and say that humans are already doing that. We are a part of the food chain after all. Its just incoherent, to me at least, to include them in ethics. Even if we ignore that and we focus only on what humans can do to measure animals according to our rules, wouldnt we be obligated to do everything we can to reduce the suffering of animals inflicted by other animals? It doesnt make sense. — DingoJones
I can go along with your position that interactions between non-human animals are not governed by morality, and that animals are not moral agents. The trouble is that the human treatment of animals is part of the moral sphere, simply owing to their involvement in our practices. In doing things with animals we involve them in our relations with each other, and the "ethicality" of those intrahuman relations is thereby in a manner of speaking transferred
on to the direct relations between humans and animals.
I think just about anything can be "included in ethics" that concerns human actions, so the human treatment of animals is or can be an ethical matter. Let's agree that animals are not moral agents. Does it follow that human actions involving them are not a matter for ethics? I don't think so. Some version of the argument from marginal cases
(AMC) can be used to show this. E.g., the treatment of infants is a matter for ethics even though they might have no concept of right and wrong.
Notice that the AMC is not here being used to argue for anything so strong as animal rights, and in my opinion it doesn't even show that the exploitation of animals is wrong. What it shows is that human actions that involve beings--human, non-human, and maybe even non-living (dead bodies)--without the mental abilities we consider as normal for humans--such as the concept of self, right and wrong, and temporal self-awareness--are ethically significant, or can be.
One intuitive way to see how this is so is to observe that the cruel treatment of animals may do harm to humans. The knowledge of cruel practices, and certainly the witnessing of or taking part in those practices, may have a brutalizing effect on people. I don't want to make any argument depend on this, but it's one way to look at it.
And it seems to me quite difficult to claim that the treatment of pets is not an ethical matter, which your position implies.
Now if I'm right and it is
an ethical matter, you could still argue that it is not wrong
to exploit animals, perhaps by invoking the significance of species membership (which includes the so-called "marginal cases"). That is, you could argue that species membership justifies our treatment of animals, even though it doesn't justify the claim that the treatment of animals is not ethically significant at all. This would probably be something like my own position, e.g., we can eat meat without doing wrong, so long as we don't treat the animals cruelly.